From its start, Imagina has been organized by the French National Audiovisual Institute (INA) to coincide with the Monte Carlo Television Festival (this year celebrating its 37th anniversary). The 16th annual Imagina conference was held from February 19-21 in Monaco and highlighted new imaging and communications technologies. Traditionally, Imagina, like the American SIGGRAPH conference, has been devoted entirely to computer graphics and special effects for film and television. Gradually, it has added such areas as virtual reality, virtual communities on the Internet, new mediums of communication between man and computer, interactive games and Internet games, and complex modeling techniques for creating virtual characters or environments. Among computer graphic professionals, the event attracts artists, animated and live-action film producers and writers, game and multimedia publishers and writers, website users and creators, as well as architects, designers, doctors, military personnel, etc. A modest-sized event when it began in 1988 (1,400 people), Imagina 97 topped 7,000 visitors, confirming it as the most important European conference in the field. Imagina itself revolves around three subdivisions: the professional exhibition, the conferences, and the Pixel-INA competitions awarding prizes to the best computer-generated work--animated films and special effects.
Several Works Seen at Imagina 97 Virtual Monaco: A virtual flight through Monaco and its harbor was presented by Intel at the Intergraph stand. This project was undertaken by the Marseilles company VSM using Division dVise software for Windows NT. The hardware was the Intergraph workstation TDZ-410 with a dual processor Pentium Pro 200 MHz, equipped with a Z25 GT graphic accelerator and geometric accelerator. This interactive model is the preliminary step to the creation of a future protected walkway at the port of Condamine (Monaco). Delphi Reincarnated: EDF, Imagina's official partner, presented a 3-D reconstruction of the monuments that once stood at the present day archeological site in Delphi, Greece. These monuments date back to the 4th century B.C. Sponsored by the MÈcÈnat Technologique et Scientifique of EDF for the Athens French School, the project is the result of a collaboration between the Nancy School of Architecture, the Bordeaux Museum of Archeology and EDF. Madracers, the new simulation film done with computer graphics by France's ExMachina, depicts an interplanetary chase in a rococo style, which is quite a change from the everyday space rockets à la Star Wars. This film is expected to come out in Iwerks theaters using 3-D projection, as well as in a game version.
2nd World is a multimedia game consisting of a virtual online walk. The product of Cryo Interactive Entertainment, it is published by Canal+ Multimedia (a subsidiary of Canal+ TV company). It contains a graphic database of a virtual city (a 3-D reconstitution of Paris and its streets, with virtual buildings and apartments, etc.) on a CD-ROM (for Windows). First, a user selects how their personalized digital avatar will look, then connects via the Internet to the 2nd World server. One can explore the different Parisian districts from any direction one chooses: streets, stores, monuments, as in any real city. It is hardly a rare occurrence to encounter other avatars out for a virtual walk at the same time. Not only is 2nd World a meeting place, there are other services available: games, activities, a newspaper and even a polling place. A new democracy is born! Tian an Men is a short 3-D film made by Pasquale Croce and Arnaud Lamorlette (Buf Compagnie) for Amnesty International. This short has hardly been seen since it has been banned. It depicts the famous Chinese demonstration, where one person stopped a tank cold in Tian an Men Square. A mix of real images (provided by the BBC) and 3-D computer graphics that replicate the other tanks and the rest of the square take us into the heart of the action, besides the student confronted by a tank, as if all in one single camera movement. The new 3-D images combine perfectly with the original sequences to give an illusion of a real newsreel, even to the point of integrating the identical "white noise." Tian an Men received the Imagina jury's special mention.
Six Conference Sessions "Narration. Interaction"--More and more, interactive media (CD-ROM, Internet) are mixing narrative with active public intervention: possibly to change the story line, to add new characters and situations. Presentations by: Greg Roach (Hyperbole Studios, USA), Andy Cameron (Antirom, UK) Troy Bolotnick (LightSpeed Media, USA), Chris Crawford (Chris Crawford Games, USA), Ramesh Jain (University of California, San Diego, USA) and Gilberte Houbart (MIT, USA). "Virtual Communities and Video Games: 3-D on the Network"--A journey into some of the more recent creations of some of the ambitious projects take take one into new realms of communication, where players from all over the world plug into shared virtual worlds. Presentations by: Yuzo Naritomi (Sega, Japan), Greg Richardson (3DO Company, USA), Robert Rockwell (Black Sun Interactive, Germany), Gurrminder Singh (Institute System of Singapore), Philippe Ulrich (Cryo, France)Alain LeDiberder (Canal +, France). "From Image to Model"--New techniques, analysis and image identification, sample objects seen from multiple angles, analysis of image sequences, morphing or foreseeable manipulation of facial aspects. It is now possible to create virtual models directly from real elements. Presentations by: Takedo Kanade (Carnegie Mellon University, USA), Thomas Vetter (Max-Planck Institute, Germany), Luc Robert (INRIA, France), Steven Steitz (University of Wisconsin at Madison, USA), Duncan Rowland & Michel Burt ( St. Andrew University, Scotland) and Fabio Pettinati (Apple, USA). "Setting in Motion"--After the shapes are modeled, the movements then must be modeled (dancing, walking, smiling, frowning) so as to animate the virtual characters and environments. This requires the use of complex movement analysis techniques, capturing the gestures, facial expressions and full body movements within a given space, or even creative techniques to invent the movements. Presentations by: Hal Bertram (Jim Henson's Creature Shop, UK), Ken Perlin (New York University, USA), Kazuyuki Ebihara (ATR, Japan), Gilles Dietrich (INSEP, France), Michiel Van de Panne (University of Toronto, Canada), Agnès Saulnier & Pierre-Emmanuel Chaut (INA, France).
"Knowing and Understanding in 3-D"--Three-D, now available on the Web, is a supplemental instrument for Internet surfing. Whether educative or fun, 3-D (on or offline) is a form of exploration and discovery into our world of knowledge: medicine, archeology, and museum technology were the examples elaborated on. Presentations by: Fabio Pettinati (Apple, USA), Jack Lancaster (Research Imaging Center, USA), Christian Laroche (Ecole Française d'Athènes, Greece) & Guillaume Thibault (EDF, France), Emmanuel Forsans (Cryo Interactive Entertainment, France), Dennis Cosgrove (University of Virginia, USA), Delle Maxwell (Silicon Graphics, USA). "Subtle and Spectacular Effects"--An annual favorite at Imagina, this session is devoted to special effects in movies: obvious effects that result in the invention of the most unimaginable creatures, or invisible effects that render the scene in all its realistic splendor. Presentations by: Jan Kounen (director) & Rodolphe Chabrier (Mac Guff Ligne, France) for the feature movie Le Dobermann (director Jan Kounen), Kelley Ray (Sony Pictures Imageworks, USA) for the feature movie The Craft (director Andrew Fleming), Stefen Fangmeier (Industrial Light & Magic, USA) for the feature movie Twister (director Jan De Bont), Valérie Delahaye (Digital Domain, USA), Antoine Simkine (Duboi, France) for the feature movies Mordbüro (director Lionel Kopp) and Didier (director Alain Chabat), Mike Boudry (Computer Film Company, UK).
Tomb Raider, a game from Gidos Interactive. The Green Man, by Jodi Whitsel (Texas A&M University Visualization Lab)
The Professional Exhibition
This year there were about 100 participants, of which I would like to point out the following: Graphic workstation manufacturers: Digital Equipment, Intergraph, SiliconGraphics. Two-D and 3-D software publishers: Alias Wavefront, Animation Science Corp. Autodesk, Discreet Logic, Softimage. Three-D object database publishers: Rem Infografica, Viewpoint DataLabs; Suppliers of motion capture systems: Motion Analysis Corp., Qualisys AB. Hardware suppliers : Barco, Tektonix Theta Scan. Regional and institutional companies: ElectricitÈ de France ( EDF), VallÈe de l'Image (The Regional Council of Burgundy); TV stations: Canal +.
More than 500 works from almost 30 countries were entered in this competition. The Imagina jury selected 67 works to be screened, representing the production of 25 different countries.
Grand Prix Imagina: Joe's Apartment: Funky Towel by Jon Payson and Chris Wedge (Blue Sky Studios), USA. Media Prize for Best European Creation: Superstition by Ray Spencer and Sylvain Delaine (New Wave International/Movida), Belgium. Special Jury Mention: Tian An Men by Buf Compagnie, Pasquale Croce & Arnaud Lamorlette (Buf Compagnie), France. 3-DAnimation: Mars Attacks by Tim Burton and Industrial Light & Magic (Tim Burton/Larry Franco), USA.
The Pixel-INA prizes based on votes by attendees at the end of the two official conference screenings (10 categories):
Music Video: Whatever You Want (Tina Turner) by Stéphane Sednaoui (Propaganda Communications) & Stéphanie Lang (Cinesite Europe), (Propaganda Communications), UK. Credits: Homage to Jessie Owens & Carl Lewis by Pitof Duboi (Wind Luc Dayan Productions, Canal +), France. Fiction: ADN by Patrick Cherau and Marc Thonon (Okenite), France. Games: Tomb Raider by Core Design (Eidos Interactive), France. Special Effects: Joe's Apartment by Jon Payson and Chris Wedge (Blue Sky Studios), USA. Commercial: GMEV1: Appliances by Joe Johnston (ILM/Kip Larsen), USA. Visualization: Fibonacci and the Golden Mean (excerpt) by David Fisher (The Palladian Group), USA. Art: Sakuratei by Koji Matsuoka (Links Corp./Imagica Corp.), Japan. Theme Parks: Superstition by Ray Spencer and Sylvian Delaine (New Wave International/Movida), Belgium. Schools & Universities : Dust City by Sébastien Droiun, Cristoph Mutin & Oliver Dumont (Universite de Provence), France.
Others Prizes & Special Mentions
Soundtrack, presented by the Commission Supérieure Technique: Dust City by Sébastien Droiun, Cristoph Mutin and Oliver Dumont (Universite de Provence), France. Ricard Prize for Creativity: Sticky Business by Ed Taylor (Kingston University), UK. SCAM Prize for 3-D: Cahin Caha by Michel Bret (Univerity of Paris), France SACD Prize for Script: Joe's Apartment: Funky Towel by Jon Payson and Chris Wedge (Blue Sky Studios), USA.
Down In the Dumps by Philips Media. Les Girafes de Mordillo, by José Xavier (Fantome Animation)
Jean Segura is a scientific journalist and consultant, specialized in scientific imaging, computer graphics and virtual reality. His book, Du Scanner aux images numériques ( From Scanners to Digital Images), was published by Agfa Gevaert/Nathan.